Pakistani Court Grants Bail to Accused Mastermind of Mumbai Massacre

Hafiz Saeed’s house arrest was canceled in 2009, reinstated in 2017.

By ARSHAD MEHMOOD / THE MEDIA LINE
July 17, 2019 01:52
4 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Holtzberg lay a wreath at the Chabad House in Mumbai.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Holtzberg lay a wreath at the Chabad House in Mumbai on January 18th, 2018.. (photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)

Islamabad - A Pakistani anti-terrorism court in Lahore released on bail Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, a UN- and US-designated terrorist and alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The court also granted bail to Saeed’s close associates Amir Hamza, Hafiz Masood and Malik Zafer.

Saeed founded Jamat ud Dawa (JuD), a Salafi group widely believed to be a front for Lashkar e Taiba (LeT), which is on the UN’s list of global terrorist groups.

LeT members were involved in a series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 that killed 166 people, including six US citizens. Two of these citizens also had Israeli citizenship and ran the city’s Chabad House. The four days of attacks left more than 300 others wounded. Nine of the attackers were killed, while the 10th was arrested.

Munir A. Khawaja, assistant prosecutor-general of Punjab, told The Media Line that on Monday, Judge Javed Iqbal Warraich granted the accused interim bail against surety bonds until August 3. The bail pertained to a case related to JuD’s illegal use of state land for its schools and seminaries.

Saeed is under house arrest in Lahore amid tight security provided by an elite provincial security force.

During the hearing, Saeed’s lawyers said the JuD leaders were not using any piece of land illegally and that no specific proof had been submitted. The court directed the state to present further evidence at the next hearing, Khawaja told The Media Line.

On July 1, the Punjab Counter Terrorism Department registered 23 cases against Saeed and other senior leaders of JuD, LeT and the Falah e Insanniyat Foundation, a charity wing of JuD, for using assets to finance terrorism.

According to Counter Terrorism Department spokesperson Asif Ali Shah, cases have been registered against them in Lahore, Gujranwala and Multan for collecting funds through assets and properties.

Shah said that large-scale investigations had been opened into the financing of proscribed organizations, including JuD and LeT, in connection with the implementation of UN sanctions against these and persons, as directed by the National Security Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Shah further said that leaders of JuD and LeT had been booked. They including Saeed, Hamza, Hafez Abdul Rahman Makki, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Muhammad Yahya Aziz, Muhammad Naeem Sh., Mohsin Bilal, Abdul Raqeeb, Dr. Ahmad Daud, Dr. Muhammad Ayub, Abdullah Ubaid, Muhammad Ali and Abdul Ghaffar.

On July 12, Saeed and his seven aides challenged the charges of financing terrorism and money laundering in the Lahore High Court.

Qari Abdullah, JuD’s spokesperson, spoke exclusively with The Media Line from an unidentified location.

“We are repeatedly denying that Hafiz Saeed and JuD’s other leadership have been involved in any anti-state activities. We have no connection with al-Qaida and Lashkar e Taiba,” he said.

Saeed is a co-founder of the Defense of Pakistan Council, a coalition of hardline Islamists. Over recent years, the council has held nationwide rallies and protests for the ending of US drone attacks and to stop NATO supplies from transiting Pakistani soil to Afghanistan.

According to Abdullah, this could be the main reason that US officials wanted Saeed imprisoned.

He confirmed that JuD lawyers had filed a petition in the High Court against Pakistan’s federal government and Counter Terrorism Department. In the petition, Saeed and the other accused challenge the registered cases and reject the charges against them. The petitioners were not linked with any terrorist organization, nor were they involved in any money laundering, and therefore the CTD cases must be declared void of any legal basis, Abdullah said.

JuD’s legal team is headed by A.K. Dogar, considered the country’s top lawyer.

The High Court’s two-member bench during the preliminary hearing issued notices to the federal government and the Counter Terrorism Department asking them to submit their responses within two weeks. Justices Shehram Sarwar Chaudhry and Mohammad Waheed Khan adjourned the proceedings until July 30.

Last November, on the 10th anniversary of the Mumbai massacre, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Pakistan to implement sanctions against the defendants and announced that Washington was offering a $5 million reward for their prosecution and conviction. The State Department is also offering a $10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice.

Pakistan put Saeed under house arrest a month after the Mumbai attacks but he was freed in 2009. In 2010, the Supreme Court upheld his release, saying there was insufficient evidence to detain him. Saeed’s house arrest was reinstated in January 2017.
The US has also offered up to $2 million for Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, a brother-in law-of Saeed.

Makki has been in custody since May, when he was arrested by Punjab Police in Gujranwala. He is accused of hate speech against the state’s crackdown on banned organizations conducted in accordance with the guidelines of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF). He was in charge of JuD’s political and International affairs, and also responsible for JuD’s charity wing.

Zaman Ali, a counter intelligence official, told The Media Line that in March, under those FATF guidelines, the government launched a crackdown against religious organizations banned under the National Action Plan. A total of 182 seminaries were seized by the government and over 100 activists were taken into custody as part of a push against banned groups, followed by the freezing of bank accounts and seizure of assets.

FATF placed Pakistan on its money-laundering gray list in June 2018.

Read more articles from the Media Line.


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